It is not always as easy as it looks
Nothing like sitting around a crackling fire after a hard day in the hills eh. Make sure you know how to light one though, because if sitting around one is the best thing, not being able to get a decent one going is the most embarrassing thing (especially if you are a bloke).
Like anything, to be assured of success it pays to plan ahead. Always have your matches or lighter in a waterproof container, carry a candle stub, or a scrap piece of rubber. You could even chuck in a couple of little lucifers (but that could be cheating a bit).
Next go collect your wood, if you are lucky the campsite or hut you are staying at will have had some considerate bush wise people staying there before you and they would have collected and stored some wood before they left.
If this is not the case, gather your wood, remember dead standing wood is the best. Such as the branches of trees that have fallen but are left sticking up in the air and not in contact with the ground. If it makes a real crisp ‘thwaaack’ sound when you break it, it should be pretty dry. Collect some dead Beech tree branches as the small leaves burn well when starting the fire.
I like to make a platform or lattice style of fire, as you can load plenty of wood on to it while still allowing good airflow and you can poke your candle or piece of rubber underneath to help it along. Start with your smallest and driest material adding the bigger stuff once it’s going well.
If you are heading into an area that is particularly wet, and it is winter time or early spring, then chances are a lot of the wood around will be pretty damp. It's times like this it pays to be a little cunning and take a bit of kindling and newspaper from home. And if you are likely to have anyone in your party that needs slowing down, why not slip a couple of nice tinder dry pieces of firewood in the bottom of their pack? They will forgive you once you have that great fire going!
Handy hint – Kaikawaka (NZ Cedar) is fireproof, so learn what this tree looks like, so you don’t waste too much time trying to get a fire started with this type of wood! It's commonly found in Nelson, Westland, the Catlins and the Ruahine Range.
Putting out the fire!
I know it just seems wrong to douse a roaring fire, but the consequences of leaving a fire unattended can be disastrous. So always put the fire out completely when leaving the hut/camp. If you are in a hut and you decide to clean out the fire and remove the embers/ashes, put them in a bucket and fill the bucket with water, just in case any of those embers spark up in the breeze. Or if you have had a camp fire, tip a couple of buckets of water on it and spread out the embers to stop the heat building up again.
Better still chuck some dirt or sand on top to suffocate what sparks may be left.